Finance / Insurance / Real Estate (FIRE)

Panama City as a deregulated zone for finance and free trade has attracted a remarkable amount of global foreign investment since the 1970s. Nicholas Ardito Barletta, the Minister of Planning under the Torrijo’s Administration (1972-1981), the World Bank vice president of Latin America and the Caribbean, president of Panama (1984-1985) and a graduate of the University of Chicago “played the pivotal role in the development of a Panamanian banking complex in the late 1960s” (Warf 2002). With Panama’s banking sector engineered to facilitate a growth in its Special Economic Zones (Colon and Panama Pacifico), Panama City saw remarkable growth in its offshore banking sector because of deregulation and secrecy laws. It is incredibly easy to open an offshore account in Panama City and, until the release of the Panama Papers, ownership of portfolio investments has been extremely opaque. As a tax haven, Panama City has attracted a large amount of narco dollars and money laundering. Today, capital flight and investment crystallizes in Panama City’s skyline as a dense, vertical presence of multinational corporations, financial institutions, and luxury condominiums. In the past decade, Panama City has witnessed intense urbanization and real estate development, particularly in certain neighborhoods of the urban coastline, such as the neighborhood of Punta Pacifica, an “exclusive enclave of 18 luxury condominium towers perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean” (Punta Pacifica Realty) anchored by the Trump Ocean Club (the tallest building in Central America). The neighborhood of Punta Pacifica, once zoned as a US military base during their occupation until 2000, was extended by process of land reclamation, producing valuably sought after land with rent value approximately $4,000 per square meter.

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